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Chester County Press

Local author publishes new book that will help children learn about moths and butterflies

07/05/2021 08:44PM ● By Steven Hoffman

In her newest picture book, “Open Your Eyes (Discover the Cecropia Moth),” Iris Gray Dowling wrote a story that was inspired by her grandson’s discovery of a cecropia moth on a street in Parkesburg. 

“He brought it to me knowing that I had a lifetime of studying moths and butterflies in this area,” Dowling explained in an email. “Of course, I told him that it was a cecropia moth, the largest moth living in the United States. The cecropia has a wingspread of over six inches.”

Dowling said that her newest book was written and illustrated for elementary-age children to enjoy and learn the scientific facts about moths and butterflies, especially those that live in eastern part of the United States—and particularly in Pennsylvania. 

She explained, “The grandson who found this moth gave it to me when he joined the Navy two years ago in hopes that I would do a story about it. This story was born out of his wishes. He is the central character, but is portrayed much younger. In the book, the siblings are elementary ages and go with their father on a library visit, particularly to study about this moth, and they find out how moths differ from butterflies and how moths, being nocturnal, live much differently. While William is serving his country in a sub in the Pacific area, his twin brother, Robert, helped with the story by listening many times to the various versions and making suggestions to help see it to completion.”

Dowling explained that the large moths only live about a week in the springtime, just to mate and lay eggs. This contributes to the fact that many people have not seen them in their lifetime.

Dowling, 86, has written everything from books about local history and nature to picture books and teaching articles. She said that she spent many hours during the pandemic “writing, drawing, and coloring the illustrations in this book, as well as the backgrounds for their display.” 

The Cochranville resident illustrated the cecropia on the cover and elsewhere in the book, along with many other large moths and butterflies.

The book contains several pages of game ideas, a glossary, additional interesting facts, diagrams, a devotional on Moths, and bibliography information.

“The book is definitely scientific and would be an interesting study for homeschoolers, as well as students in any school,” Dowling said. “It is hoped that reading and studying this book will encourage parents and children to study nature topics together, as well as to appreciate the creation of such beautiful unusual creatures that live in our surroundings.”

Dowling has found a number of large moths in Upper Oxford Township and has mounted them in a collection to display and show to groups both young and old. 

“Open Your Eyes (Discover the Cecropia Moth)” is the sixth picture book Dowling has authored, and her 17th book altogether. Other books contained nature stories, school and church program ideas and puppet skits, as well as a history of churches in the Oxford area, and mission stories from people in the Upper Oxford and Cochranville area.

Dowling was born in Upper Oxford Township and went to a one-room school in the township. She graduated from Oxford High School and West Chester University, earning bachelor of science and M.Ed degrees. She taught school in Willistown/Sugartown and substituted in other elementary schools from West Chester to Stratford/Valley Forge and Great Valley. She has also conducted homeschool evaluations for Pennsylvania Accreditation Agency for 30 years.

Dowling has also worked on the Historical Commission of Upper Oxford Township and the Oxford Area Historical Association.

“Open Your Eyes (Discover the Cecropia Moth)” is available in soft copy. It was designed and published by Jeanine Quinn of Goddard Printing in West Grove. 

More information about the author and her books, including information about how to purchase the newest work, can be found at